To say that someone is ‘Awakened’ in spiritual terms, is to say that they are aware of the moving of God’s Spirit, not just in the lives of people specifically, but also in the world more generally. To define a person as being ‘Woke’ is to declare that they are aware of the racial, social and political injustice that is prevalent in the world around them, and to assert that they are actively involved in and committed to addressing those inequities.
So on the morning recorded in Luke 4:18 when Jesus stood up in His local synagogue and read from Isaiah 61, declaring his Kingdom mission and mandate, we find God in Christ declaring in every sense of the word that he was ‘Woke.’
Not only was Jesus woke, but the gospels make it clear that He ministered in a way that showed that being woke meant serving, living and loving. And yet, Jesus never carried a billboard or led a political protest. He never incited any insurrection against the Temple or Roman rule or even spoke in overtly political tones.
He was a King however, a King who had ushered in a new Kingdom into human reality. A Kingdom that would rule from the inside out exposing the evils within the human heart and challenging us to first live in protest to the evils found there. Observe his approach…
Jesus the Activist
He protests the racial divide between Jews and Samaritans, (John 4). Walking through Samaria to an excluded woman sitting by a well, Jesus brings salvation to her and her town; a people racially and historically shut out from the Kingdom of God.
In Luke 9 He protests the religious elitism of even His disciples who want to call down fire on a man using Jesus’ name but not walking in their Jesus group. Rebuking their exclusivism Jesus declares, “if he is not against Me, he is for Me”.
Against the mutual hatred between the Jews and the Romans, in Matthew 8 Jesus shows his care for even those with privilege and power by not only healing the servant of a hated Roman but by also declaring his act of faith in Jesus as the greatest example of faith He had witnessed in all Israel.
In the Gospels of both Luke and Mark we see Jesus protest the stifling grip of toxic patriarchy by allowing women both place and privilege among His disciples and making a woman the first to tell His disciples and Peter that He had risen.
Jesus Cares About All Human Suffering
While Jesus was indeed woke by today’s definition, He was a man of color living in a world of color. The modern construct of race and racial identity would not be invented for another 2500 years. So, even though he was not battling race and racism as we understand it, what Scripture shows us is His commitment to opposing nationalism and xenophobia, or any discrimination and oppression practiced against a people based on their nationality, place of origin, or even religion.
So yes, Jesus was woke. But He was woke to the plight of all humanity. He was woke to the social concerns of every kindred, people and tongue that He found and that find Him in the gospel narratives. He is a risen Jesus who’s heart and connection to the human story has not changed, thus He was, is, and forever will be Woke.
The call of the Kingdom that Jesus announces in Luke 4 remains today what it was that day. Our call to follow Jesus Christ is a call to living woke, loving woke, and serving a woke God. Even, if need be, dying woke.
To be like our ‘Woke Jesus’ and bring about His ‘Woke Kingdom’ is to see in all humanity the value that the Cross of Jesus places on them. It is to tell stories and create narratives that affirm and perpetuate the meaning of that value and to live in intentional and proactive contradiction to all constructs, ideas and ideologies that devalue humanity be they social, cultural or religious.
To be ‘Jesus Woke’ is to be aware that like Jesus you will be both celebrated and condemned, both attractive and a pariah. You must remember that Jesus calls us to be present with humanity. This is the man Jesus was. This is the savior Jesus still is. This is the Jesus, the Father sent. This is the ‘Woke Jesus’ that we are called to follow and emulate in the world.